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The best pay-as-you-go mobile plans in Australia

In a world of cheap unlimited monthly phone plans and new phones on long repayment plans, PAYG (pay as you go) plans are still fighting for a place in the market – and they still prove to be popular.

PAYG phone plans are beneficial because you only pay for what you use. While you might need to pay an initial set-up fee or recharge your plan with some credit, if you’re a light phone user, or just like flexibility, a PAYG phone plan may be for you. Read on to find out more about PAYG phone plans in Australia and to compare some of the options currently on the market.

What is PAYG?

‘Pay as you go’ (or PAYG) plans are similar to old-school prepaid plans — you usually recharge with a set amount of credit with no obligation to keep recharging, and you only pay for what you use. Some providers even carry long-expiries such as 180 or 365 days so you can last six months or an entire year before worrying about your phone plan again, as long as your credit stretches that far.

While these are obviously good options for a spare phone or a light user, many more customers simply like the flexibility PAYG affords. These plans are also good for if you’re going away for a longer period of time, but still want to keep your number. As the term ‘recharging’ suggests, these deals are usually on a prepaid basis, meaning you only pay whenever you want to use your phone, and when your credit runs out you aren’t charged excess fees.

How to find the best pay-as-you-go mobile plans

When choosing a PAYG plan, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Firstly, you’ll want to set a budget, and also consider how long you want the plan to run for. Once you have a clearer idea of how much you’re looking to spend, you’ll want to compare plans around this price point.

Rather than comparing inclusions, you’ll need to compare how much it will cost to make calls, send SMS and use data, along with rates for international calls if this is important to you. It also helps to look for any catches, such as call connection fees and limitations on what you can use your credit for.

You might also want to consider the provider, and which mobile network that provider uses. If you’re living in a more regional or remote area, you’ll want to ensure you’ll have network coverage where you live and in any other areas you frequently visit.

Once you’ve had a look at plans, hopefully you’ll find the right pay-as-you-go phone plan that will best suit your needs.

The top PAYG phone plans

There are a number of popular Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that provide PAYG phone plans, with some even offering plans that last a whole year. These providers include:

ALDI Mobile PAYG Plans

ALDI Mobile is a very popular choice, consistently rating well in Canstar Blue’s customer satisfaction ratings for prepaid phone plans. ALDI Mobile offers a $5 PAYG starter pack, and you can then choose from three additional PAYG recharges for $15, $25 or $35. All recharges last for 365 days, but the beauty lies in the detail:

  • Calls are 15c/minute
  • Texts are 15c each
  • MMS is 35c each
  • Data is 6c/megabyte

These rates are pretty cheap – especially for the calls with no flagfall – and you could theoretically have up to 290 minutes of call time, or 290 texts with the $35 plan. International numbers also start as low as 10c a minute, depending on the country, and you can recharge as you like. ALDI SIMs are available in-store, or you can purchase online. You can also recharge your plan through SMS. ALDI Mobile operates on the Telstra 4G Network.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
ALDIMobile Logo

Pay As You Go $15

  • PAYG
  • $5 Upfront Cost inc. $5 credit

min. cost $15 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Data^^/billing period
ALDIMobile Logo

Pay As You Go $25

  • PAYG
  • $5 Upfront Cost inc. $5 credit

min. cost $25 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Data^^/billing period
ALDIMobile Logo

Pay As You Go $35

  • PAYG
  • $5 Upfront Cost inc. $5 credit

min. cost $35 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $35Advertised Data^^/billing period
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Amaysim PAYG Plans

Amaysim is a popular prepaid phone plan provider, and offers one simple plan as its PAYG option. Operating on the Optus 4G Network, Amaysim has one $10 SIM available with a 365-day expiry period. This plan includes $10 credit and you can recharge as you see fit, with rates going pretty cheaply:

  • Calls are 15c/minute
  • Texts are 15c each
  • MMS is 49c/each
  • Data is 7.2c per MB

While these call and text rates are comparable to ALDI Mobile, the MMS and data rates are slightly more expensive. These extra rates can add up in the long run, but for a cheap and easy PAYG plan, Amaysim is a compelling option. If you’d also like to reserve your credit for calls and SMS only, you can add on a data plan for $15 with 2GB of data over 28 days.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

Basic As You Go

  • PAYG
  • 15c/min calls, 15c texts, 7.2c/MB

min. cost $10 over 365 days

NAMax Data**/billing period $10Advertised Data^^/billing period
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Vodafone PAYG Plans

Vodafone has a selection of pay and go starter packs with varying expiry periods. Plans are priced from $30 with a 180-day expiry and up to $50 with a 365-day expiry. The rates are:

  • Calls are 20c/minute
  • Texts are 20c each
  • Data is 4c/MB
  • International rates start from 3c/minute

As you can see, the data rates are very cheap compared to a lot of other providers, so if you need to use a bit of data, Vodafone may be worth a look into.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

Prepaid 365 Plus $30

  • PAYG
  • 20c/min calls, 20c texts, 2c/MB

min. cost $30 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $30Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

Prepaid 365 Plus $40

    • PAYG

20c/min calls, 20c texts, 2c/MB

min. cost $40 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

Prepaid 365 Plus $50

  • PAYG
  • 20c/min calls, 20c texts, 2c/MB

min. cost $50 over 365 days

PAYGMax Data**/billing period $50Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all mobile plans listed on Canstar Blue

Optus PAYG Plans

Optus offers a slight variation on the traditional pay-as-you-go system, with its unique Flex plans. As the name suggests, they’re a flexible option in which users can get a gigabyte a day, for a dollar a day. It’s important to note that the plans are similar to a PAYG format, but have likenesses to a subscription service in the way the plans work with the set inclusions. The breakdown of the available plans are listed below:

  • Optus Flex 4G – Daily: 1GB of data per day, $1
  • Optus Flex 4G – Weekly: 7GB of data per week, $7
  • Optus Flex 4G – Monthly: 30GB of data per month, $30
  • Optus Flex 4G – Annual: 100GB of data per month, $180
  • Optus Flex 5G – Daily: 2GB of data per month, $2
  • Optus Flex 5G – Monthly: 60GB of data per month, $60

PAYG pros and cons

A pay-as-you-go plan, just like its prepaid and postpaid counterparts, will have its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately you need to take these pros and cons into consideration to help determine if PAYG is the right option for you.

PAYG pros:

  • Only pay for what you use
  • Usually available on a long expiry period, so you can set and forget
  • Rather cheap plans considering plan length
  • Suitable for light phone users
  • Good option for a second back-up phone, or for keeping your phone number even when you don’t use your phone often (such as extended stints overseas)

PAYG cons:

  • You need to keep on top of your usage
  • Only suited to light phone users
  • No unlimited calls or SMS
  • Not many providers offer these plans, and they’re hard to find so you have limited choices to compare

How is PAYG different to prepaid and long expiry plans?

PAYG plans were pretty much the original prepaid phone plan. Before unlimited calls and SMS became commonplace, if you had a prepaid plan a couple decades ago, you’d need to monitor your usage and recharge when you ran out of credit.

These days, a PAYG plan is much less common, and differs from the standard prepaid plans on the market. The key feature of a PAYG plan is that you pay for what you use — any calls, texts or data will come out of your credit. Once you use up your credit, you’ll need to recharge.

In comparison, a prepaid plan will include a set amount of calls, texts and data to use within that expiry period — if you happen to use up your inclusions before the expiry, you’ll be without your inclusions until your next recharge, or you’ll need to add on extra inclusions.

While PAYG plans are mostly a long-expiry plan, prepaid plans are also available over a longer billing period. The difference is that with a PAYG plan, you’ll have that length to use up your credit, while with a prepaid long-expiry plan, you’ll need to ration out your inclusions — mostly data — to ensure it lasts during that time. With both cases, if you run out of credit or inclusions before your plan expires, you’ll need to recharge.

Do I need a pay-as-you-go mobile plan?

A pay-as-you-go plan does only work for a limited number of phone users. If you use your phone for calls, texts and data every day, then a PAYG plan will not suit your needs and could definitely cost you more long-term.

For example, if a PAYG plan includes $20 of credit and charges 15c per call, if you make a three minute call each day, you’ll use up your $20 of credit in around 40 days. Considering most of these plans are on a 365-day expiry period, you’ll need to recharge your plan around eight times a year. Making a daily phone call of six minutes, or sending six text messages each day at that same 15c per minute/per message rate, will see you use up close to $1 of credit per day and need to recharge every 20 or so days.

Compared to prepaid plans, $20 can get you unlimited calls and SMS, along with around 10GB of data to use over a 28 or 30-day expiry period. If you prefer that ‘set and forget’ of a long expiry period, then you might be better off looking into a long-expiry prepaid plan.

If you only occasionally use your mobile phone and don’t even use it daily, then a PAYG plan might be the right choice for you. The point of these plans is to essentially be there for when you need it — whether that’s making the occasional call or checking an address online when you’re out.

Another benefit of a PAYG plan is that it’s cheap and typically has a long expiry period. If you have a second phone for emergencies and want to keep it active, or perhaps if you’re going overseas for an extended period and don’t want to lose your phone number, a cheap PAYG plan is a good way to have access to service or your number without the monthly bills or expensive costs.

Overall, a PAYG phone plan does have its advantages, but you’ll really need to consider if it’s the right option for you. These plans aren’t as common as they once were, and many providers might make it hard to find. However, if you think a PAYG plan is right for you, compare what’s on offer to ensure you find the best plan for you.

Is a PAYG phone plan worth it?

PAYG phone plans benefit from being low-maintenance, low in cost, and long in recharge times. Many come with cheap call and text rates too. However, if you’re even more than a very occasional mobile phone user, you may struggle to see value in a PAYG plan, especially when $20 or so can diminish pretty quickly.

This is also especially noticeable when phone plans with unlimited calls and SMS along with 1GB of data, are as little as $8-$10 per month these days, so heavier phone users may like to look elsewhere. Adding insult to injury is the fact that some service providers can charge a fair amount of money per megabyte of data used, so even casually checking your email or looking something up on Google can become an expensive affair.

PAYG is good for spare phones, those wanting a low-maintenance phone plan, those heading abroad for a while and wanting to keep their number, or for elderly people. But the large majority of people out there who depend on their mobile phone day-to-day will most likely want to look elsewhere.

Compare prepaid SIM plans

Below are selected published prepaid plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This selection of plans includes links to referral partners.

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